I once had a client named Tom. Actually I am lying. I've never had a client named Tom. I just using it in place of the real person's name.
You know because of the whole protecting people's privacy and anonymity thing.
But yeah I had this client named Tom (but not really) who trained with me for 6 months. In that time Tom got leaner, stronger, and definitely healthier. It was fantastic to see someone make progress.
Tom and I though don't talk anymore.
I know crazy you'd think after all that time and progress we would have become close and remained in touch.
However although we did become quite good friends during this period of time things didn't end well between us. The reason for which was mostly my fault as young trainer eager to make a difference and begin building a professional portfolio of client success stories.
It actually kind of blows me away to think about how different my approach to working with clients is today then it was 3 years ago,
Tom definitely hit his goals, but I was the largest determining factor in that. I don't say this with pride or to brag. I am quite sad about the situation looking back now. I probably did more harm than good for Tom in the short run.
You see Tom was what I call a "challenging" client. He was late to most appointments. He rarely remembered anything we did from session to session. He would come up with every excuse possible to avoid doing the homework I laid out for him. And worst of all he didn't think there was anything wrong with eating a few donuts for breakfast every morning.
Can you see why I might call him "challenging?"
Despite all this Tom had success. The reason being that I pour everything I had into Tom. I made his training plans as simple as possible. I demonstrated every exercise we ever did in every training session regardless of how many times we had done it previously. I wrote his homework on a card that was left in my file cabinet at the gym that I required him to have the front desk staff to sign and date it as proof he had been to the gym and done it. I monitored his check-ins to the gym and called him when he did come as planned. I wrote 7 day meal plans each week for him and texted him constantly throughout the day to remind him to follow it.
I would praise him every time he did something right and ignore all his bad behaviors (behaviorism 101).
It was crazy how much effort I put into Tom and how little he put forward himself. But you better believe he made progress and quite a bit if I might add. Tom was happy with the results and so was I.
However one day with all this going in Tom came to me and asked if there was anything more I could do for him to help him get to his diet more in order. And that's when I lost my cool a bit. I didn't yell or scream. I didn't call Tom names or saying anything unprofessional, but I did tell Tom how I felt and that I didn't want to work him anymore.
This came as a surprise to Tom. He thought things were going well. The truth is they weren't neither for him or me. I was propping up his change process and killing my motivation to do a job I would have once done for me.
As I said before Tom and I no longer speak and ceased training together. Tom returned to his old ways as expected and kept none of the ground he gained during that time.
I started thinking about Tom and this situation Monday after having a conversation with a current client about a family member of theirs, this family members current state of health, and his character. During which she said something that really hit home for me and put into words the lesson I learned after working with Tom.
It will take all you can give.
It is such a profoundly true statement about so many things in our lives and completely described what happened between Tom and I.
I'll bet some of you can relate to this, but I took and at times still take way to much pride in my work ethic, self-discipline, productivity, and fortitude. So much so that I was always the person who would be first to take on a task when asked. Or if something needed to be done I would assume responsibility for it.
But here was my biggest mistake and where the fault becomes all my own.
I would do it with a smile on my face. I would reassure people that it was fine. It was cool. I can handle it.
You know because I am the guy with the greatest work ethic, self-discipline, and fortitude and the most productive and want every chance possible to prove that to everyone else.
This was flawed though because I opened myself up to constantly giving and pouring myself out into things and people more so than everyone else. Yet people would continue to bring me more things to do and ask more of me because they thought I could handle it and was cool with doing it, you know, because I kept reassuring them this was the case.
But how I really felt was resentful, angry, and upset because it seemed like no amount was ever enough. I felt like I was constantly giving and people were constantly taking. I felt resentful because no one else seemed to be pouring themselves out like I was.
I expected them to do the same and they weren't. I was resentful because I felt that the other people didn't care as much as I did or perhaps didn't care about me. They weren't thinking about everything I was taking on and having to manage and weren't giving me any recognition for it. It made be angry and hateful. It made me feel taken for granted and like my efforts were wasted.
There is actually a really fantastic song by a band I have really come to love over the last few years, Blue October, called Bleed Out. It was written by the lead singer of the band, Justin Furstenfeld, from the perspective of his second wife.
It talks about how she must have felt constantly trying to help him deal with his demons and him constantly just asking her for more help and to put up with more of his bullshit.
And Mr. Furstenfeld if you ever read this and I completely butchered that explanation I am really sorry.
Anyways the songs below if you want to listen to it. The song starts at around 4 minutes and 58 seconds in. It's one of my favorites. I think we have all felt something like that before.
And such was the case with Tom. I would agree to do anything he asked of me to help him despite it meant I was giving up my own free time for which I wasn't getting paid. Not to mention writing workouts that weren't included in the training package he paid for and providing meal plans (which if you don't know are extremely time intensive) for free. And I did it all with a smile on my face hoping that Tom would eventually begin to become less of a challenge.
What ended up happening was I poisoned the relationship with my resentment despite me bringing all of it on to myself through my willingness to help and lack of boundaries.
I finally came to realize that people and things really will take all you can give even if that means all of you.
They will do this especially without thought if you pretend to be happy to do it all the while hoping and looking for recognition for doing it.
The truth is we can't give all our selves to anyone thing or person.
You have to set boundaries and limits both for your own mental and physical health and for the benefit of others. We have to make it clear what and how much we are willing to contribute and stick to it. When someone tries to violate our boundaries we have to immediately let them know what they are doing and that we don't care for it.
If only I had forced Tom to take ownership of his training, learn the exercises, understand the reasoning behind his programming, and educate him on what to eat, how much to eat, and why to eat it he might be better off today. He might still be my client and we might still be friends.
We have to stop being so prideful and looking for external recognition for the things that we do take pride in.
Our value is determined by ourselves not by what others think of us.
Remember it will take all you can give. It's up to you to set limits, hold to those limits, and keep some of yourself for the most important people and things in your life.
Can you relate to my feelings and the situations I put myself and others in?
Do you still do this?
Are you currently trying to work on not doing this?
I'd really like to hear from you. Please comment below and tell me all about it.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training